Why ESOL classes?
When refugee friends visit us at JRS, I try to grab every chance to have a coffee with them and chat, especially when they visit our JRS shop. Surprisingly, we always have a lot to catchup on; they tell me about their refugee status, and some share their struggles if they are facing any. I never push them to speak about them, as I know how triggering these topics can be, so I find it such a privilege that they trust me enough to speak to me about their feelings.
As an Activity coordinator, I always put the needs of our refugee friends as our top priority. During our chats, lots of them mention that they are struggling with their English and how difficult it is for them to communicate clearly in their day to day.
Getting such feedback stressed the need to provide them with English classes to enable them to communicate with confidence throughout their daily tasks, such as going to the GP, the groceries, and most importantly communicating about their asylum case application, and reading important documents.
‘The ESOL classes gave me so much confidence to speak English, I used to feel very hesitant.’
-Quote from one of our refugee friends.
JRS ESOL classes
Our first JRS ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) class started in February 2022. It is led by Sr Nasreen Nizar, a certified ESOL teacher with wide experience in teaching unprivileged communities globally, who generously offered to volunteer her valuable time and skills to empower refugee friends at JRS. The beginner and intermediate classes that we offer will run yearly. At the moment, they are held online, as our refugee friends expressed that it is easier for them to attend online classes, but we might switch to in-person classes in the future, if needed.
I am not afraid of speaking English anymore.
-Quote from one of our refugee friends
Would you like to volunteer at JRS? We are always looking for volunteers to support our work at JRS
We don’t only teach English
Our ESOL classes are not only for teaching English language. Sr Nasreen Nizar also shares with refugee friends about British culture, norms, and important events, as we find refugee friends are particularly interested in learning about these aspects of life in the UK. It is a community that has no learning limits. I remember during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration; Sr Nasreen Nizar told the students about it and why it is celebrated in the UK. The students showered her with questions and took copious notes.
‘What I’ve seen throughout this project is that age has no limit, there are some refugee friends who join from different ages groups, and they excel in their English skills’
‘Sr Nasreen Nizar, ESOL teacher volunteer at JRS’
Our hopes for the future
The next step that I am dreaming of is for our refugee friends to help in leading some of the sessions, so that along with gaining more confidence in their English, they can enhance their career skills. We want the period of waiting for their status to be a period of learning new skills and enhancing their career progression, rather than waiting listlessly and helplessly for the home office decision on their status.
Another project that I am hoping to initiate, as an inspiration from the previous one, is to create a JRS conversation club, where refugee friends come to chat with each other to improve their speaking skills. Throughout the ESOL classes, I have noticed many of our refugee friends have improved their skills in writing and reading but need more help and confidence in speaking. When we create activities at JRS we always think of improving skills. Activities are not only about having a good time, although that is important, and they are good fun, but they are so much more than that, they actually improve people’s lives.
We are always looking for donations to continue our activities at JRS